Drone technology to help save lives

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser

A successful trial of drone technology to assist sea rescues off the treacherous south coast could become a permanent lifesaving tool, according to rescue authorities.

The trial on Saturday morning at the notorious Salmon Holes, where 13 people have died since 1983, involved Albany Sea Rescue and the Albany Surf Lifesaving emergency response team along with drone operator Brad Harkup from Albany Aerial Imaging.

Given the job of locating a black wetsuit replicating a floating body in the water, the drone was able to complete the task with the video feed from the drone’s camera picked up by the new ASR Rescue 1 vessel.

Albany Sea Rescue operations co-ordinator Chris Johns hailed the trial a success and proof that the technology could be vital in saving lives after being initially mooted in 2015.

“It’s a really good set of eyes,” he said.

“A drone is a huge advancement to us. It’s as deployable as we are and it can be on the scene as quick as we are but we haven’t had that link to see what it sees, so now on Rescue 1 we can see what the drone sees.

“If it finds something while we are searching we can direct our boats or skis to find what we are looking for.”

Albany Surf Lifesaving Club emergency response team co-ordinator Pat McSweeney said the trial was a positive step.

Mr McSweeney said the delay in an emergency helicopter coming to the region from Bunbury or Perth meant drone technology needed to be looked at.

“It’s fantastic technology and I believe we can use that to our advantage in searching when we have tragedies off our coast,” he said.

“This should be really looked at around the State. We have a massive coastline and we have to use everyone and what we can to get the job done.

“The one thing that is always against us is time.”

Mr Harkup, who is also a Sea Rescue member, said the trial proved the technology could save a life and be in the sky quickly as part of the initial rescue response.

Both rescue authorities said it was disappointing to witness four anglers on the rocks without lifejackets or tied to the rocks.

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